I find that the French have two ways of cooking: either extremely complicated or pure and simple. The former type of recipe is more a matter of “mastering” the technique, timing and skills, where everything can go wrong if you turn around for a mere second (such as the notoriously difficult soufflé). The latter type of recipe allows the minimal ingredients to shine, usually with a more rustic presentation; The recipe for today fortunately falls into this easy category!
When you're craving something really sweet and sticky after the end of a meal, this dessert fits the bill perfectly. The beauty of this recipe – aside from being very simple to make – lies in the myriad of flavors. The pears, the maple syrup, the citrus fruits and the cinnamon all shine through. You can detect every single flavor with each bite, like the caramel taste of the maple syrup and the tangy orange zest, but they are all subtly balanced against each other in one rich, sweet mess.
The recipe is designed for 4 people, but if you want smaller portion sizes, you could squeeze out 8 servings, especially if you plan to pair it with some kind of cake.
Orange-Maple Glazed Pears with Vanilla Crème Fraîche
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: about 30-40 minutes depending on the ripeness of the pears
Total time: 45-55 minutes
For the Glazed Pears:
4 medium to large ripe pears
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter (about 1/4 of a stick)
The juice of 1 lemon
The juice and zest of 1 orange
2 whole cinnamon sticks (or powdered cinnamon to taste)
For the Vanilla Cream:*
1/2 cup of crème fraîche (if not available in your area, sour cream will do)
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp of honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract
A handful of crushed almonds
- Heat the oven to 480 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celsius).
- Cube the butter and put into a baking dish with the rest of the pear-glaze ingredients, except for the pears themselves. Put the dish into the oven until the butter has melted (this only takes a few minutes). Take out the dish and mix the ingredients with a spoon so that everything is blended.
- Rinse the pears and cut them in halves (don’t peel them). If the pears are ripe enough, you can easily scoop out the inner core with a spoon. Put the pear halves in the baking dish, cut side facing down. Take a spoon and baste the skin sides with the warm syrup liquid.
- Bake the pears in the oven until soft (test with a fork or a skewer). Depending on how ripe your pears are, this will take longer or shorter, but I found that 20 minutes was sufficient.
- In the meantime, add all the ingredients for the vanilla cream (except for the honey) into a bowl and mix with an electric beater. Mix until the cream fluffs up nicely – you don't want it to be runny. Add the honey. Taste and see if you wish to add more honey or vanilla, but remember that the pears will be very sweet.
- Roughly chop the almonds or crush them with a blunt object inside a plastic bag. Set aside.
- Take out the oven dish and turn the halves so that they face cut side up. Return them to the oven and bake until slightly golden (around 15 minutes, but check regularly). I also like to turn on the broiler during the last minute or two, but keep a close eye on it, as it can easily burn.
- Let the pears cool a little and then serve with the vanilla cream and the chopped almonds. I guarantee there won’t be anything left on the plates!
*If you want to simplify the recipe even more, serve with a good quality vanilla ice cream instead of the vanilla crème fraîche.